Sup­port needed for deaf chil­dren

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - WEST MINSTER LIFE - Fiona Onasanya

At my party’s an­nual con­fer­ence this year, I dis­cussed the im­por­tant is­sues af­fect­ing deaf chil­dren in Peter­bor­ough and across the coun­try with the Na­tional Deaf Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety – a lead­ing charity that aims to cre­ate a bar­rier-less so­ci­ety for deaf chil­dren and their fam­i­lies.

There are around 45,000 deaf chil­dren in Eng­land, and ac­cord­ing to their data, 314 of these chil­dren re­side in Peter­bor­ough.

The charity em­pha­sised to me that deaf­ness is not a learn­ing dis­abil­ity, and that there is no rea­son, with the cor­rect pro­vi­sions put in place, why the ma­jor­ity of deaf chil­dren should achieve any less than hear­ing chil­dren.

How­ever, speak­ing with one of their young cam­paign- ers, made it very clear to me that with­out these pro­vi­sions, deaf chil­dren and young peo­ple are of­ten vic­tims of iso­la­tion and bul­ly­ing in school.

With 78 per cent of deaf chil­dren at­tend­ing main­stream schools that don’t have spe­cial pro­vi­sions, it is ev­i­dent that we can do much more to pro­vide the sup­port that can un­lock the po­ten­tial of deaf chil­dren across the coun­try.

This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in Peter­bor­ough, as the NDCS in­formed me that deaf chil­dren in our city are reg­u­larly fall­ing a GCSE grade be­hind their hear­ing class­mates in school.

One cam­paign the charity are pur­su­ing that could be of great help is the in­tro­duc­tion of a GCSE in Bri­tish Sign Lan­guage in schools across the coun­try. To be able to learn their first lan­guage in school would be lib­er­at­ing, and im­prove the school ex­pe­ri­ence for many deaf chil­dren.

De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion fig­ures show that the at­tain­ment gap be­tween deaf and hear­ing chil­dren has ac­tu­ally widened over the last year. Surely, a GCSE in Bri­tish Sign Lan­guage is a so­lu­tion that can help buck the trend, and fos­ter a more promis­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment?

The root cause of this prob­lem is clear. Deaf chil­dren’s ser­vices are fac­ing a fur­ther £4 mil­lion worth of cuts this year. More­over, through­out the gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity agenda – there has been a marked re­duc­tion in the num­ber of spe­cial­ist ser­vices and teach­ers that coun­cils are able to pro­vide.

For the last eight years of Con­ser­va­tive rule, de­volved aus­ter­ity has had a stark im­pact on those who need our help the most – in­clud­ing deaf chil­dren. These cuts should be im­me­di­ately re­versed as a mat­ter of ur­gency. At the Con­ser­va­tive party con­fer­ence, the Prime Min­is­ter de­clared that “aus­ter­ity is over”. My chal­lenge to this gov­ern­ment is that they ac­tu­ally ful­fil this prom­ise and tackle the shock­ing fund­ing cri­sis in SEND ed­u­ca­tion. Oth­er­wise, they are com­plicit in sti­fling the po­ten­tial of thou­sands of deaf chil­dren across the coun­try who de­serve bet­ter.

To be able to learn their first lan­guage in school would be lib­er­at­ing and im­prove the school ex­pe­ri­ence for many deaf chil­dren.

Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes her reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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